Budget season is in full swing in most IT departments, and the numbers are in. Companies in every industry are expanding their IT spending and earmarking more of their 2024 IT budget on digital transformation.
Gartner forecasts that global IT spend will increase by 8 percent in 2024. Our own survey of hundreds of C-suite leaders in the community banking vertical shows similar levels of interest and investment.
All these reports prove one thing: companies still believe in the power of IT to drive innovation and productivity. Despite high-interest rates and fears of recession, businesses are committed to growing their IT infrastructure, as shown in the chart below. Here at Integris, our clients are investing more across the board, especially in software as a service, cloud technologies,
and more advanced cybersecurity tools. As you might imagine, we’re excited about the potential this represents, for us and our clients.
With so many clients spending more on IT‚ you might wonder where we’re advising them to spend those dollars. More importantly, what specific investments should your company be making?
Of course, we’ll always recommend incremental improvements to your existing strategies. For the purposes of this column, I’d like to diverge from those standard system upgrades, and dig into emerging opportunities or neglected areas that often get overlooked. Let’s discuss some new ways to look at your 2024 IT investment.
Six Investments to Consider for Your 2024 IT Budget
As with any generalized advice, your mileage may vary. My suggestions are designed to get you thinking more strategically about how your IT operation could move your business goals forward. Here are some of the intriguing IT investment areas I see coming for 2024.
#1—Written Policy and Procedure Review for AI Fair Use
With the explosion of new AI and business intelligence tools on the market, your coworkers are getting bombarded with splashy new offers to try them. Likely, employees are already using tools like ChatGPT to shorten the time it takes them to do their work.
I often compare this AI gold rush period to the rise of social media networks. Every company had to develop a written social media fair usage policy for their employees that governed how they speak about work and what they reveal online. An acceptable use policy for artificial intelligence is much the same.
When developing a strategy for AI use at your company, it’s essential to think through it all: AI chatbots and the information they collect, copyright concerns around AI-generated text and graphics, HR policies around AI use in recruiting, and more. Employees need to be instructed about the dangers of downloading company documents or information into an unsecured AI network. Your company must also create a process around vetting AI tools to ensure they aren’t mining your company data.
As you put together your 2024 IT budget, consider assembling an internal committee or building in some consulting time with your MSP to help draft the right policies. Then communicate them to staff, clearly and often. The time to get ahead of artificial intelligence is now.
#2—Upgrade your Employee Security Awareness Training
Do you have a comprehensive cybersecurity awareness training program at your company—one with monthly updates, regular testing, and individual tracking? If the answer is no, your 2024 IT budget should include an extra investment in your employees’ cybersecurity readiness.
Most cybersecurity breaches occur because of human error, and in the age of deep fakes, phishing/social engineering attacks have gotten far more sophisticated. Spotting hackers is more complex than ever, and the consequences have never been greater. Investing in a security awareness program should be your company’s first line of defense. It’s also one of the chief requirements of many regulators and cyber risk insurers. If your current program falls short, it’s time for an upgrade.
#3—Consider Ways to Improve Provisioning/Onboarding Offboarding with New Tools
There’s been a lot of buzz lately about Windows AutoPilot, and with good reason. Microsoft’s new tool cuts a lot of time and worry out of the provisioning process by turning it into a nearly self-service user experience. Onboarding, offboarding, and inventory management get substantially easier under this program. As a bonus, it coordinates with existing asset management tools you may be using, such as Microsoft Intune, Windows Update for Business, and Microsoft Configuration Manager.
With new options like this available, your 2024 IT budget planning period is a great time to take a step back and think strategically about how you deploy, manage, and retire devices. New investments in this area could save a lot of time and money.
#4—Beef Up Your Cloud Backup
The end of the year is an excellent time to think about your upcoming usage needs and adjust your network capacity accordingly. This goes double for your cloud backup. Your ability to rebound after a hack or an outage can be one of the most critical business decisions you make as an IT leader. As you plan your 2024 IT Budget, we recommend buying at least 25 percent more backup space than you think you will need, to ensure nothing is lost.
In addition, it’s essential to review the recovery time your organization can tolerate. Can you put a number to the business costs associated with a two-hour outage versus a two-day outage? Calculate your ideal recovery times now, and build your backup accordingly. The yearly planning stage is an excellent time to upgrade your DR recovery time and tighten your backup procedures.
When was the last time your company underwent a system-wide penetration test? If the answer is more than two years ago, it may be time for another. When conducted by a thorough, outside IT partner, a penetration test can help you find the cracks in your organization’s cybersecurity defenses.
Quality matters regarding penetration tests; you’ll want a partner who can conduct plausible, real-world incursions that can be easily tracked and contained in your systems. A comprehensive list of vulnerabilities remediation suggestions should be provided at the end of the test.
#6—Consider Opportunities for New System Certifications
Your 2024 IT budget planning period is the right time to ask the big questions at your organization. Are there contracts you could bid on, or vendors you could work with, if only you had the proper cybersecurity certifications? Could you get a better rate on your cyber risk insurance if you had a SOC2 Compliant operations center?
Significant opportunities could await your business if you invest in the proper certifications. You might consider certifications like CMMC (for manufacturers interested in working with the Department of Defense), HIPAA (for companies handling healthcare data), or ISO 2700-1 and GDPR (for companies conducting international business). They could open whole new markets and industry verticals for your company.
Be advised—these certifications involve a heavy administrative lift, usually requiring thorough system assessments, buying new tools and licenses, developing new procedures, and documenting it all in written policies. Luckily, this is the work we do for our clients daily. Integris has a vCISO division that helps clients prepare for new certification reviews and can help you manage the short-term surge of work this involves.
Optimize Your 2024 IT Budget for Success
More and more companies are “born in the cloud” today, and the workloads are moving into these hybrid cloud environments. Security becomes the tip of the spear and how you use data in this virtual world drives businesses to be more efficient and proficient. Tasks that used to take a lot of time and workforce are being shifted to the cloud, included in product service packages, or managed by AI. As you consider these new options, ask yourself:
- How can we maximize our improved security posture to enhance our business opportunities?
- How can we turn improved speed and capabilities into an improved user experience for our clients and employees?
- Once we start peeling away larger, more obvious system vulnerabilities, how do we find and address the hidden ones?
And perhaps the most critical question of all:
How can all these new tools and partnerships get our daily grunt work off our desks, so my internal staff is free to lead?
Your 2024 IT budget is more than just a checklist or even a wish list. It’s a chance to build the foundation for your business to grow. Make it count.